Reduce death in the water

A Let's Swim Program instructor, with the help of a volunteer from the group, explains some of the basics about swimming to primary school students at the Suva Olympic Pool. Picture: ANA MADIGIBULI

A Let's Swim Program instructor, with the help of a volunteer from the group, explains some of the basics about swimming to primary school students at the Suva Olympic Pool. Picture: ANA MADIGIBULI

In the past year, our drowning death toll seems to have declined tremendously.

According to the Fiji Police Force, drowning statistics for last year seemed to be the lowest to be recorded compared with the previous years.

Drowning death toll recorded for 2012 stood at 73, while death toll for 2013 was at 48, 2014 was at 47, 2015 was at 40, 2016 at 30 with last year police recording only 19 cases of drowning in the country.

This significant reduction of drowning cases in Fiji could be attributed to many things and one of them being the swimming lessons being taught to children at primary schools around the country.

One of the programs that is making an incredible impact on reducing drowning cases in Fiji is the Let’s Swim Program.

The Let’s Swim Program was launched last year as a pilot project which comes through the Australian Government with its Pacific Sports Partnership (PSP).

Let’s Swim Program co-ordinator Trisa Cheer-Dunn said they had started the pilot project for six months last year with the team working with the Ministry of Education, Oceania Swimming, Australian Government, Fiji Swimming and Swimming Australia.

“Our main goal is to reduce the number of drowning in Fiji and we though the best way to go about it is to implement it through our existing school swim program targeting the younger age groups such as Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3 students, but we also had whole school participation (students from Year 1 to Year 8) in the program,” she said.

“We thought that targeting schools was a better way to get the message across rather than going to communities or doing group lessons because at least with the schools we have a captivated audience.

“Our swim program is about teaching participants basic swimming skills, teaching them a bit of water safety (what to do and what not to do in and around the water) and giving them safety message as too.”

She said the team worked with schools in Suva, Nadi and Lautoka.

“In Lautoka we have two schools which are the Sunshine Special School and St Thomas Primary School. In Nadi we have four primary schools and in Suva we have about ten schools because the pool can only cater for a certain number of students in a day,” she said.

“In a day at the (Suva) Olympic Pool we can cater for two schools going simultaneously and that covers the whole space there and it’s the same too at the Damodar Aquatic Centre.

“We had hoped that we could teach or train teachers so they can take ownership of the swim program and continue with it in the following year.

“Somewhere along the line that didn’t work out and so we changed it by getting interested young people who have the passion, the patience and who love working with children to assist with shadow teaching alongside our qualified instructors and then they sit for the course and get certified too.

“The only school that had their teachers (three teachers) in the water taking their own swim program was LDS Primary School and this is good. Now they’re just waiting for their certification.”

She said Fiji lacked certified accredited swim instructors.

“For us it’s a good thing to be working with the Ministry of Education because to be able to teach or to have a class with the school you need to go and register with the Ministry of Education or the Fiji Teacher’s Registration Authority so you get a provisional licence which allows you to teach the children,” she said.

“We do not have enough accredited qualified instructors to cater for our big number of students but we are trying to train as much instructors as we can and just getting them certified so that they can be accredited instructors.

“We have 12 certified instructors and currently we have six shadow assistants.”

She said even the most apt-skilled swimmer can drown depending on the situation they’re in and it’s all about common sense and how they would apply it during those situations.

“We are planning to go into the communities as well but not just yet because Term 1 is a busy term for us because we have all the schools participating and its the cyclone season, so we have a lot of children who are keen to learn during those periods,” she said.

“Whilst working with the children we have also expanded into working with the police where we help them out with their Learn to Swim Program and so we had instructors taking those classes too.”

When this article was written, the drowning death toll in the country was seven compared with eight for the same period last year.

More Stories